Several tornadoes lashed southern Louisiana and Mississippi on Tuesday, killing at least three people and injuring more than 30 others as the storms destroyed homes and businesses and toppled a water tower, weather and emergency officials said.
One of the hardest-hit areas was the Mississippi River hamlet of Convent, Louisiana, where most of the estimated 160 mobile homes at the Sugar Hill RV Park were demolished, the Advocate Newspaper reported, citing St. James Parish Sheriff Willy Martin Jr.
The National Weather Service confirmed that at least two people died in Convent, located about 60 miles (100 km) west of New Orleans, and another was killed near the southern Mississippi town of Purvis, where a mobile home was destroyed.
Acadian ambulance services in Louisiana said it had transported 31 people to area hospitals in St. James Parish, which bore the brunt of the storms, and five others from three neighboring parishes, according to the agency's Twitter feed.
There were additional reports of survivors being taken to hospitals in private cars, and other ambulance operators were responding to the emergency, indicating the casualty toll would likely climb higher.
Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards declared a state of emergency in seven parishes and said he was traveling Tuesday night to Convent to survey the damage there.
The storm system posed a continuing tornado threat as it swept east through the night across Mississippi and into Alabama, Mike Efferson, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in New Orleans.
The Weather Service said Alabama could see tornadoes and hail early Wednesday.
Storms were expected to hit southwestern Georgia by midnight and could reach Atlanta and central Georgia before the morning rush hour on Wednesday, meteorologist Adam Baker said.
"We're really concerned that this could catch people off guard," Baker said. "We need people to listen to weather warnings in the area."
Tens of thousands of customers were without power in Louisiana at the height of the storms, according to Entergy Louisiana, the main electricity supplier in the area.
In Assumption Parish, a tornado knocked down a water tower and damaged homes, said Deputy Robert Martin of the Assumption Parish Sheriff's Office.
Up to 20 homes were reported destroyed, and firefighters rescued residents with minor injuries from four homes, said John Boudreaux, director of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness in Assumption Parish.
Residents reported damage to homes from tornadoes and golf ball-sized hail on the Mississippi Gulf Coast as the system barreled across the U.S. South, Efferson said.
Mississippi Governor Phil Bryan declared a state of emergency for areas expected to be affected by the storm.
Schools and government offices canceled classes or closed early in Louisiana and Mississippi as severe weather warnings lined up from Louisiana to Florida and Georgia.